A brilliant tale offering a universe and protagonist that are impressively well realized.

BOUND

In this debut SF novel, a powerful warrior with two complex personalities must discover and destroy the source of a dangerous infection.

The Polis federation, consisting of various intelligent species on more than 10,000 planets, knows no crime because of its members’ unconscious neural links to the Consensus, a shared morality. In case of a threat, the federation can also activate some underlying genes to engender Keld—strong, agile warriors capable of killing. Rarest of this rare breed are the Bound Keld, who can regenerate after their deaths into new lives. These Keld have two personalities, or rather two aspects of the same personality, in one body. Usually these personalities alternate with each reanimation, but Adin Rayne went through a tortuous process in order to become fused with Shennan, her other half. Only one can be ascendant (in charge of the body) at a time, but they’re mutually aware and communicative. Although she’d rather be a peacemaker, as a warrior with the Keld Special Action force, she’s charged with killing worlds, if need be, to protect the federation. On five planets, a new and unprecedented threat has arisen called the Madness, seemingly some type of infection that induces ordinary people to carry out deadly attacks despite the Consensus. In her battles, Adin discovers she has a unique ability to perceive the Mad, allowing her to track down the true nature of this infection and its source, which must be annihilated before the whole Consensus is contaminated. Her dangerous, bold endeavors have severe physical and emotional consequences; as if that wasn’t difficult enough, the Prospect planet Moton has been infected while its scientists are developing technology they’re not socially advanced enough to handle, a double threat. If Keld Special Action can’t wipe out the Madness on Moton, the planet may have to be destroyed.

In his book, Sullivan presents an intricate two-in-one main character whose psychology is as compelling as her warrior prowess. Adin and Shennan complement each other but have different preferences and strengths. Adin is reserved and cool, for example, while Shennan is more optimistic and gregarious. After each death, the personality that was ascendant retires to recoup, allowing the other to come forward and choose the preferred body type for that incarnation (complicating their romances). Adin/Shennan’s conflict between wanting to make peace while required to make war gives the character additional depth, and the worldbuilding is equally intricate and well thought out. The author gives attention to the kinds of differences many SF writers overlook, such as how diverse the cultures and languages can be and the ramifications of that variety. On Pellegro, for example, the four-caste system means a strike team doesn’t have enough taps for cable-fiber bundles, with the group expecting one bundle but getting four: “Who would have thought they wouldn’t even allow their data to touch?” This thoughtfulness is matched by exciting, dynamic action scenes with an array of weaponry and tactics, all described with crystal clarity while fully imparting their urgency and danger.

A brilliant tale offering a universe and protagonist that are impressively well realized.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-57-794744-6

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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